Distributed Learning - Independent Schools

Date came into force or revised

Revised January 2014



Policy statement

An independent school may only offer distributed learning after receiving a certificate of classification and entering into an agreement with the Minister of Education. 

Rationale or purpose of policy

To establish a framework under which independent schools may offer distributed learning.


Policy in full

Distributed Learning is a method of instruction that relies primarily on indirect communication between students and teachers, including internet or other electronic-based delivery, teleconferencing or correspondence.

Distributed Learning (DL) provides another choice for learning within the current K-12 system. DL takes place outside of the regular classrooms typically when a student is at a distance from the teacher and the school building. Students may opt for distributed learning when they live in remote locations, due to scheduling conflicts for required courses or sometimes because of learning preferences. Students in DL programs have increased flexibility in determining their academic schedule as school calendars are not bound by time and space. Students may enroll at any time during the school year, subject to school policy.

Distributed learning agreements will only be entered into with authorities operating, or intending to operate, Group 1 or 2 distributed learning schools.

Distributed Learning and Independent Schools 

Group 1, or 2 independent schools may operate DL programs under specific conditions. Independent school authorities must have the following in place prior to operation:

  • Submitted an application for establishing an independent DL school, inclusive of all requirements as outlined in the related policy on establishing an independent school; and,
  • Approval of the application by way of a certificate of group classification for the grade or contiguous grade range(s) offered; and,
  • A signed DL agreement with the Minister of Education,

To be funded for DL programs, a new DL independent school will be evaluated to ensure that it is complying with the Independent School Act and related regulations and orders. If compliance is verified through an external evaluation, a new DL school will be funded as a Group 2 independent school in the first year of operation.
For information on homeschooled children and DL please see Distributed Learning – Policy for Homeschoolers.

Procedures related to policy

The Independent School Distributed Learning Agreement (PDF) and Schedule A - Standards for Delivery of K-12 Independent School Distributed Learning in British Columbia outline the requirements and expectations for delivering the DL program.

Students wishing to be enrolled in DL programs offered by independent school authorities may do so directly through the independent DL school.

Funding for Distributed Learning

As set out in the Independent School Regulation (PDF), Group 1 DL independent schools are funded at 63 percent of the flat public school DL per pupil rate.  Group 2 schools are funded at 44.1 percent of the same flat rate.

External Evaluation and Monitoring of Distributed Learning

Independent schools offering a DL educational program undergo evaluations in the following ways:

  • an initial external evaluation
  • following that, an external evaluation at least once every 2 years
  • a monitoring inspection in the alternate years.

Inspections are based on compliance with the Independent School Act and the supporting regulations and orders and the education requirements set out in the Schedule A - Standards for Delivery of K-12 Independent School Distributed Learning in British Columbia (PDF)

Special Needs Funding for Distributed Learning Students

Special Education Services – A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines

When students are enrolled in more than one school, special needs funding will be made available to the school of record (the school at which the student is taking the majority of courses).  In situations where students with special needs are cross-enrolled, the ministry expects that schools will work together to develop and support the student’s IEP in a holistic approach, including consideration of services the cross-enrolled school may need to provide to support the IEP.

Sharing of Student Records 

In some cases, students will enrol in DL courses with both independent and public schools and have records with both. When this occurs, independent school authorities and boards of education must provide the others with access to information in student records necessary for each to satisfactorily perform its obligations under the Independent School Act or the School Act.

Reimbursements to Third Party Service Providers

The general provisions regarding payments to third party service providers are set out in the Distributed Learning Agreement. The authority will pay only the third party directly and not the parent, learner or any other person. As of February 15, 2014 a cap of $600 per FTE in grades K-12 will be implemented for reimbursements to third party resources and service providers.  

This financial limit does not apply to:

  • supporting students with special needs in levels 1, 2 and 3;  and categories K,P,Q,R, in achieving the goals in their Individual Education Plans; 
  • career technical centre program courses;
  • post secondary transition program courses and;
  • a portion of Internet access costs if required to participate in a DL program or course.

Materials, services and resources provided through a third party may only be for purposes relating to meeting learning outcomes, as set out in the Educational Standards Order, and documented within the Student Learning Plan.

Other Home Based Learning Options

For more information on home based learning options see the following areas: